Shakespeare, Science, and Art

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 158

Does Hamlet live in a Ptolemaic or Copernican solar system? Is Queen Mab a germ? Which falls faster: a feather or the Duke of Gloucester?

In Shakespeare’s time, new scientific discoveries and mathematical concepts were upending the way people looked at their world. Many of those new ideas found their ways into his plays. We speak with Dr. Natalie Elliot about how Shakespeare interpreted the scientific innovations of the early modern period in his art. Elliot is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Listen to Shakespeare Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, NPR One, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Dr. Natalie Elliot is a storyteller, science writer, and a member of the faculty at St. John’s College. Her essay “Shakespeare’s Worlds of Science” was published in the Winter 2018 edition of The New Atlantis. Elliot is currently working on two books: an exploration of Shakespeare's engagement with early modern science called Shakespeare and the Theater of the Universe, and a comic novel about woolly mammoths called Megafauna.

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published January 5, 2021. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “If This Be Magic, Let It Be an Art,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. Leonor Fernandez edits our transcripts. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Evan Marquart at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California.

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Transcript

MICHAEL WITMORE: When all the things you think you know about the world touch ground and dash themselves to pieces, where do you turn for answers?

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director.

It’s out of fashion to say it these days, but for a long time, the era when Shakespeare was writing was called the Renaissance—a time when parts of Western Europe were moving away from centuries under a dogmatic reliance on a Biblical understanding of the way the world worked. As that story goes, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, scientific breakthroughs were upending the way people understood the heavens, the earth, the air; even numbers. Just like today, not everyone fell in line with what science was telling them, and just like today, the societal upheaval could be enormous and unsettling.

Back then—like now—it’s often artists who help us understand profound change in the world. And if you look closely at Shakespeare’s plays, you’ll see characters wrestling with the era’s new understandings of science all over the place. Shakespeare referred to autopsies, to germs, to physics. He wrote lines that show he knew about the slow revolution going on in Europe as the theories of Copernicus began to drive out the long-held ideas of the first-century mathematician Ptolemy. He also appears to have known the work of Lucretius, the Roman poet and philosopher who first broached the idea that atoms exist.

This link between art and science in Shakespeare has long been a fascination of Dr. Natalie Elliot, and a couple of years back, she wrote an article about it for the science publication The New Atlantis. Dr. Elliot is an Assistant Professor at St. John's College where she teaches cross-disciplinary courses in the classics, math, and the-history-of-science. She joined us recently for a podcast we’re calling, “If This Be Magic, Let It Be an Art.” Natalie Elliot is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

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BARBARA BOGAEV: I'm thinking that Shakespeare lived at a time of such tremendous scientific discovery and disruption. Were just all poets and writers at the time addressing or sneaking science into their work?

NATALIE ELLIOT: Hmm, yeah, that's a great question. I think that a lot of different writers were responding to that environment in different ways. So, Shakespeare gets right into the nitty-gritty of a lot of different kinds of scientific fields. But I think people like Christopher Marlowe are thinking about just how disastrous lives can be that become obsessed with knowledge. So, in Doctor Faustus, we kind of see the tragedy of that. And, people like John Donne a bit later are despairing at the upheaval that new scientific ideas bring into the world. People like Francis Bacon are writing utopian islands where scientists rule.

So there are different ways, I think, that Shakespeare's contemporaries are responding to the upheaval and imagining, you know, different ways that human beings will actually cope with that change.

BOGAEV: And one big thing that human beings are coping with is the plague and what's causing it. So, what was the theory of germs at this point? Was there a theory?

ELLIOT: Yeah. It's, kind of, just starting to form. We don't have microscopes. We don't really have anything like microbiology yet. But people are starting to wonder about the causes of infectious diseases. Especially in Italy, people are starting to develop early theories of germs. So, people are thinking, “Okay, there seem to be invisible causes. And, there seem to be patterns of contagion.”

In Italy, there's a thinker named Girolamo Fracastoro. He writes these epic poems in which he has a hero named Syphilo—you know, who's struggling with what we now know as syphilis. And, that's where we get the name. So, there is this really interesting crossover.

But, yeah, those theories are starting to develop. Fracastoro thought that germs were a kind of seed, and they spread like a spore. So, he has a vision of how that looks, but he doesn't have a way of detecting it visually yet.

BOGAEV: And, that's what shows up, you write, in plays like Romeo and Juliet, right? That's what the Queen Mab's speech is about.

ELLIOT: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, Mercutio is, kind of, analyzing Romeo's new love for Juliet—and a lot of Romeo's friends have this analysis. But Shakespeare embeds in that speech this description of this little chariot that's made of a chestnut with a little team of atomi that pull that chariot. It has, sort of, spider's legs. You can start to see the structure of the spore, that someone like Fracastoro is starting to envision, right in the middle of that speech. So that this spore, this team of atomi pulled by the little chestnut chariot, is what causes cold sores or sores or cankers on ladies’ lips.

And Romeo and Juliet is a very bawdy play. So, the lips can mean the lips of the mouth or the lips of the genitalia. There is a lot of, you know, references to the venereal in addition to the romantic. So, in that speech, we start to see a place where the theory starts to meet the poetry and Shakespeare's imagination

BOGAEV: So Shakespeare's dealing with these or engaging pretty deeply with these scientific ideas about germs. Because, when you think of Romeo and Juliet you think of, “A plague on both your houses,” of course, and a plague that keeps Friar John from getting the message to Romeo.

ELLIOT: Yeah.

BOGAEV: But, you're saying, it's, kind of, much more organically—or really there's actual inquiry going on within the play, or within the metaphors of the play.

ELLIOT: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. You know, one of the things that I love about Shakespeare is that he takes something that operates in one realm; so, in the realm of material inquiry. And then, he takes the language and the descriptions from that material inquiry and imports them into a poetic context in which they act on a lot of different levels. There are two things operating in parallel that, on the one hand, we're thinking about how germs spread. And, on the other, we're thinking about romantic love stories. But, syphilis affects romantic love. And, there are causes of that.

We can romanticize romantic love and ignore the physical consequences of certain kinds of engagements, or we can engage with them scientifically. And they may actually shape how we think about our experience with romantic love, if we let those scientific ideas enter into our notions of romantic love. So, I think, he gets that science doesn't just operate in a separate realm; it actually affects those stories that we tell about our most tender moments.

BOGAEV: It's interesting. So, all these things are operating on different levels. And, I mean, we all, kind of, tune into some of them as we watch the play or read the play.

ELLIOT: Mm-hmm.

BOGAEV: But, you're saying science is a big thread that's running through all of this as well.

ELLIOT: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It's one of those things where, there are figures who look like they're thinking maybe more scientifically. So, like, the friar is mixing potions that make it possible for Juliet to appear almost dead. Those sorts of things we don't always think about as science. But there's a lot of crossover between that kind of thinking and the new kinds of thinking that are coming up at the University of Padua and all over Europe. It's not like Shakespeare just puts someone that we might call a scientist on stage. But he does seem to show us that there's a scientific perspective in the background here.

It's not just that there's a mysterious plague that is a blight that is from God. There's actually a cause of that. And, there's a way to analyze that that's material, and that actually could be curbed if we recognize and understand that scientifically. But, it's not quite as explicit, I think, as someone like Francis Bacon, where you almost have like a class of what we would now call scientists running politics in his New Atlantis, for example.

BOGAEV: Well, how about, how does Shakespeare compare to his contemporaries? Is he pretty up on things? Or, is he just, kind of, average in terms of scientific learning?

ELLIOT: Well, when I got interested in this, I became interested in it through astronomy. We can start to see in Hamlet, for example, that Shakespeare seems to be in contact with Copernican Astronomy. But, all over the place he's regularly interested in how characters think about the stars. We see that in Julius Caesar, for example.

Yeah, it's impressive. When you start to dig in, you see, “Oh, there's a theory of weight here. And, he's talking about atoms from Lucretius and, oh, there's a theory of germs here. And, oh, he seems to be interested in how the English are thinking about numbers.” So, I think, he's surprisingly engaged with a lot of the new science that is spreading across Europe. And he seems deeply curious about it.

Donne is a nice counterpoint. Because, I think, Donne is aware that there is a massive upheaval happening. That upheaval is metaphysical, and Donne seems to be despairing about that. Because, I think, Donne, in the end, has a fairly rich and wonderful Catholic theology. But I think that it feels threatened to him. And so, we see in his anatomy of the world a place where he, kind of, despairs that the coherence of the universe is gone. It seems like the world is in pieces. The new philosophy calls all in doubt. Everything that we thought was true about the universe that we live in—the universe that is explained by our theology is actually, it seems to be, kind of, falling apart. And so, I think, Donne is in despair, and he wants to display that despair because he doesn't know how to respond exactly.

I think, Shakespeare, he seems to be just exposed to a lot of these ideas in a rich way. I don't think he has, you know, a grand solution about how we live with all of them. But he's interested in depicting the ways that we respond to them and maybe showing the ways that they can be tragic and the ways that they can be comic. He doesn't seem to be as despairing. But I don't think he has a clear sense of how the world will reformulate itself. He doesn't have a treatise on that. You know, he gives us plays and dramatizes our struggles.

BOGAEV: I want to talk more about astronomy and Hamlet because there's so many references to it that you explore. What does the play tell us about Shakespeare's grasp of astronomy; the science of astronomy of his day and this relationship between science and art? For instance, can you tell Shakespeare knew about the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe?

ELLIOT: Yeah, sure. We get the sense that Shakespeare knew about Tycho Brahe from quite a few hints in Hamlet. The historical moment that's going on is that, James has actually recently been to Denmark, and he visited Tycho Brahe. He hung out at Elsinore and—you know, the setting of Hamlet. Tycho Brahe was the court astronomer in Denmark. The Danish king gave him this island, which was very close to Elsinore, to do his research. Tycho Brahe was aware of Copernicus's astronomy, and he also knew Ptolemy very well. He wrote a treatise in which he gave us a combo model of those two views. So, in Tycho's model you can actually combine Copernican and Ptolemaic astronomy.

Anyways, in Tycho's treatises, he publishes a frontispiece that has his family tree. And, two of the figures in that family tree are named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

We also see that in the play itself, there's a speech—it's actually in Hamlet's letter to Ophelia.To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia,” Hamlet writes, “Doubt that the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.” So, why on earth, what does this have to do with astronomy?

Okay. So, the word “doubt,” when Shakespeare is writing, has two meanings. One is the one that we are used to: suspect that something is not true. But it also has the meaning: suspect that something is true. And so, if you're reading that letter with one of those notions in mind, the sense that the sun moves shifts. So, “Doubt that the sun doth move,” can mean “Doubt that the sun is moving”. . . even though, of course, it's moving: in the Ptolemaic universe, the sun is moving, we are standing still. In the Copernican universe, the sun is standing still and we are moving. And so, “Suspect that it doesn't move,” implies that we might consider that model.

That's the speech that people point to that suggests that Shakespeare not only understand the reality of Copernican astronomy. But also that he wanted to play with it, and show us that for Hamlet, his love for Ophelia is, sort of, dependent upon whether he's living an a Ptolemaic of Copernican universe. It seems to go well or not depending on which world he's living in. And he doesn't know which world he's living in.

BOGAEV: Now, you just brought up so many fascinating things. And, I'm probably going to jump...

ELLIOT: Isn't it great?

BOGAEV: Yeah. ...on the most sidebar-ish of them. But, this whole idea of the island that Tycho Brahe was living in and it's near Elsinore. Everything seems so connected to each other. The way you describe it, you see Shakespeare exploring all of these things or putting forth the idea that, basically, these days, because of science, you can't count on any apparent facts; like, what happens to the sun.

ELLIOT: Yeah, it looks like… you know, the sun, we even speak of it as rising and setting. And, I think Shakespeare's world seems interested in questioning our theories about how things work by looking at our experience in a deeper, more structured way. So, things that are invisible; why would we believe that atoms are in the air or that the air has anything material in it? It looks like nothing. Why would we believe that little, invisible spores are causing disease? If Europe is covered in brothels and there's a blight, it might be that God is punishing people for their sins of sexual lust. You know, there are different interpretations of the facts.

But, if we start to think more experientially and probe into the stories and theories and metaphysical views that dominate our lives, we start to investigate invisible causes. And, I think, Shakespeare is aware of that; that in a lot of places we're starting to look under the surface.

BOGAEV: Right. And historically, all of these ideas are floating around. But England doesn't have any—in terms of astronomy—doesn't have any telescopes, right?

ELLIOT: That's right. Yeah. So, the telescope isn't developed until about 1608, 1609. So, late in Shakespeare's life we get the telescope. When he is starting to engage with Copernican astronomy, the reality is that no one can tell, with the naked eye, whether the Copernican or Ptolemaic system is more accurate.

When you have a telescope, Galileo starts to see the phases of Venus. They are certain phenomena that call into question the Ptolemaic and tip the balance. It's not a neat process of discovery, but there are reasons that people start to switch when we have the telescope, because we can see things that just cannot be accounted for in the Ptolemaic universe.

BOGAEV: It does put Hamlet in an interesting context, because we talk about Hamlet action versus inaction, “To be or not to be,” all of this theoretical flux and paralysis he's in. And when you put in this context of, everything in the world, in terms of science, being so uncertain and being called into question. It almost… I mean, given this, do you see science as the heart of the play or heart of the conflict in the play? Or, how do you integrate your perspective on the relationship between science and art in Shakespeare's time with your interpretation of these plays?

ELLIOT: So, I would say that, it's helpful to take a step back from the science in Hamlet to think about the theological conflict at the core of the play. Obviously, the other thing in the background of Hamlet is that, Hamlet is, kind of, toggling between a Protestant world and a Catholic world. He's at school at Wittenberg, which is the seed of the Protestant reformation. So, something like the afterlife is also being called into question. Is Hamlet's father a ghost from purgatory—the Catholic view? Is Hamlet's father a sign that he is mad, which would be to deny the existence of purgatory?

That example is helpful because Hamlet also investigates what goes on in the afterlife, in terms of what goes on after the body dies. He's talking to the grave diggers and asking them about the physical decay of the body. So, I think, it's the kind of thing where all of these different fractured universes are, kind of, happening at the same time. Hamlet is just experiencing, probably, the most acute cognitive dissonance that we can experience.

The body after death, under the earth, is being examined and exhumed. And people are starting to do dissections in England on bodies. People are asking about the theology of the Catholic and Protestant church. They're asking about the heavens. You know, the heavens, are they infinite? Are they bounded by a sphere of fixed stars? Wait, what about the heavens that we get from the Bible? That's a different version. What about the heavens that we get from the Catholic church and the Protestant church? So, I think that the Elizabethan universe is very multi-layered, and the scientific layer is just one of the ways that the world is, kind of, cracking open. And these questions sort of overlay each other because they involve different perspective on the same phenomena.

BOGAEV: Well, we've talked about germs. We've talked about astronomy. What about math? Where do you see Shakespeare grappling with new theories of math? Are there new theories of math at the time?

ELLIOT: Yeah, this stuff is really cool. So, one of the things that's happening when Shakespeare is writing is, England is getting Arabic numerals for the first time. Robert Recorde is the person primarily responsible for introducing Arabic numerals to England. Now, one thing that's very significant about that is that, for the first time, the English get the number zero. Now, if you think… imagine a world in which you don't have a zero. But this is a situation where people are getting this figure. He introduces it in his primers.

BOGAEV: Mind blown here.

ELLIOT: Right? It's sort of funny because it sort of looks like an egg. It's shaped like an “O.” You know, he has to describe how it's written down. And, so, Recorde introduces Arabic numerals. He also started to introduce algebra. A lot of these number systems are coming from Italy because, merchants, they've realized, “We need to develop new kinds of economic systems to deal with trade.” So, we see it in The Merchant of Venice, for example. Iago is angry because Cassio is this kind of economic accountant type. He's becoming the beloved of Venice rather than this mercenary warrior class that Iago is part of. And, so, Shakespeare's universe is full of men who are going to public lectures in London on new techniques in mathematics. They are applying these in all kinds of different mechanical fields.

BOGAEV: Maybe a dumb question, but Shakespeare was a businessman, right?

ELLIOT: Yeah.

BOGAEV: Do you have any sense if he was good at math?

ELLIOT: I don't know. But, I think that, the sense I get from the Merchant of Venice and places where he refers to mathematics suggests that he had a sense that there is something significant when we shift from a kind of geometric thinking to something that is more aligned with discrete mathematics. So, he refers to Pythagoras and Pythagorean geometry in some of the play. I mean, he would have had that exposure in his education to basic geometry. And, I think, in the same way that he seems immersed in the, kind of, latest scientific theories and the circles that he's in, he does seems to be participating in the questions that arise when we start to get zero. He has a lot of quantities in his plays. And, I think, he's clearly immersed in calculating and thinking about calculations. But, I think, his mind just gets really philosophical about it pretty fast. So, I don't know how good a mathematician he was, but he thinks about the meaning of it.

BOGAEV: Yeah, and I'm thinking about zero and nothing and Lear and all of the references to nothing. And, “Nothing will come of nothing.”
ELLIOT: Yes.

BOGAEV: So, you have this new, hotness theory around zero and math at the time. How does this change your understanding or how do you think about Shakespeare’s use of the theme of nothing throughout Lear?

ELLIOT: Okay, so, it's really interesting because this is a place where the number theory universe, kind of, maps onto another field of scientific thinking that Shakespeare seems to be in contact with, which is Lucretian atomism. So, in the same way that the number system has zero and it is opposed to the ones, almost in a binary way. In Lucretian atomism, we have atoms in void.

Now, okay, how on earth does that come up in Lear? It comes up in quite a few places. Lear, obviously, is full of the concept nothing. So, I think, Shakespeare is just generally interested in what happens to people culturally when they start to think nothing is a thing. Something like nihilism doesn't make any sense unless we have a concept of nothing. It certainly isn't a concept that spreads unless culturally, people are thinking that nothingness is a thing we're thinking about. The way that comes up in Lear, I think, is through Lucretius.

So, Lucretius writes a book called On the Nature of Things. That books is not translated into English when Shakespeare is writing, but it's available in Latin. It also comes through Montaigne. Shakespeare knew Montaigne well. We see him quote almost directly from Montaigne in several plays. So, some of the ideas that find their way into Lear come from this idea that, “Nothing will come of nothing.” Now, the reference is clearly to Lucretius. And, I think, anyone who is aware of that set of ideas circulating in England—which is not everyone in Shakespeare's audience, but some of his audience members would have picked up on that fact.

Now, nothingness. For Lucretius, the idea that, “Nothing will come of nothing,” operates in parallel to the idea that there are two things in the world, atoms and void. And atoms are always already there. They just exist. We don't need a prime mover to get anything started. This is, kind of, a notion that stands in contrast to creation ex nihilo. So, out of nothing things are created by God. That is a more religious or Catholic notion of how the world works. But, for Lucretius, things are already there. We don't need a creator God to start them off.

And so, when Lear says that line, he signals that he is immersed in possibly a more Pagan universe or at least one that is shaped by Lucretius. And then, he seems to treat his political power as though it doesn't depend upon anything other than his will. It will just be distributed. It can be divided in the way that atoms can be divided. Anyway, so, that's kind of the first hint that we get; something that points us to Lucretius.

BOGAEV: And you say the physics really enters into that as well. As you said, “Galileo is the contemporary of Shakespeare.” They're the same age. And you suggest that Galileo's experiments with physics also show up in King Lear.

ELLIOT: Yeah, so, in Europe, when Shakespeare is writing, a lot of different people are doing what we would call a falling bodies experiment, including Galileo. They're sort of a public display. There are questions about how fictional the reports of Galileo's Pisa experiment are, but there are actually some people who are dropping things from building and asking how they fall.

So, I think, Shakespeare knows about these experiments. And, one place where he seems to map them onto Shakespeare is in, probably one of the most tragic scenes in all of Shakespeare—maybe only rivaled with the close of Lear—which is the scene at Dover when Edger is taking Gloucester to Dover. Gloucester has had his eyes taken out brutally. He's despairing. He wants to go to Dover to commit suicide. And he asks Edgar, his son, who is in disguise, to take him to Dover. Edgar agrees to do this. And so, they're at the cliff, or they're close to it. And, Edgar sets up this, kind of, bizarre scheme where he tells his father that he's at the cliff, that the wind is blowing. And, Gloucester jumps. And then, Edgar tells him, “You've survived. It's a miracle. You fell.”

But, what's so bizarre about it, and what is almost comic is that, in the middle of that, the way Shakespeare describes Gloucester's falling body is in the way that we set up a falling bodies experiment. So, Gloucester compares his own body to a feather, an egg, the air. He falls perpendicularly the height of a number of masts. So, we get this measurement, which is basically like… here's the experimental setup for a falling bodies experiment.

And, now, the point, I think, in doing this is that Shakespeare is juxtaposing different notions of weight. We are bodies and we feel our own weight. We have an intuitive experiential sense of that. But then, science tells us that our experience of weight is not true. So, we think, bodies of different weights will fall at different rates. It seems like, wouldn't lighter things fall slower than heavier things? But that's not actually true. And a lot of the falling bodies experiments were dedicated to showing that bodies fall at the same rate. So, we are starting to get the distinction between weight and mass. We're starting to think, “Okay, the things that we think are true about the world and about the ways bodies fall are actually not.”

BOGAEV: So, drum roll, big question; what does this say about the role of art or how art functions in times like this? Of great change and scientific upheaval and when what we thought was solid ground seems just too turn to sand beneath our feet in the face of new discoveries?

ELLIOT: Well, I think, I'll say, first of all that, I think, we're always in these times. Right now, we are living in a time of great upheaval because of the pandemic. We also, in the scientific world, don't know a lot about the universe that we live in. We don't know if there is life on other planets. We don't know if we should be trying to terraform Mars because we're not sure how long the earth is going to last. We don't know if a comet is going to hit us. We don't know if an asteroid is going to hit us.

So, we always live in these times. I think that if we look at what science does and doesn't know, there's always a great deal of uncertainty. Shakespeare just takes that head on. He makes us aware of that. And, I think, artists… not all art is intended to deal with uncertainty. But, a lot of great art helps us deal with the tears in the fabric of how we live.

You know, if we suddenly realize that science tells us that we're dealing with a time bomb in terms of climate change right now, for example. People doubt that. People think it's true. People have different responses to it. Some people, you know, they decide that they need to prep a bunker. And some people decide that we need to send woolly mammoths to the Arctic and resurrect them genetically. So, there are all of these ways that we start to imagine responses to things that science tells us.

But, I think, artists, what they do is, they help us develop stories and ways of imaging the ways that we can live with uncertainty. The ways that we can become heroes in our own stories and the ways that maybe we can be humble before the uncertainty that we always deal with.

Shakespeare, in Hamlet, does this really funny thing. He takes an old story. We always have stories. But we can retell them and reconstitute them for the world we live in. So, the story he takes is the revenge plot. The hero is being asked to exact revenge on someone who deserves it. But what Shakespeare does is, he throws in a whole bunch of ambiguity. The ghost is asking Hamlet to avenge his father's death. But Hamlet is a very philosophical person who is aware that he might be going mad seeing a ghost and that it's not clear what's going on in the afterlife.

So, he has to do all this thinking which is almost a comical situation, if you think about it. It’s like putting a philosophical person into a James Bond plot. It's kind of a bizarre place to put a hero. But Shakespeare gives us this new kind of hero. It's the kind of person who is deliberative and acts slowly, and he tries on different actions. He tries the more rash action and ends up killing more people. Great artists can give us ways of trying out different stories and ways of envisioning different responses to our existential uncertainty, which I think is always there if we just look around a little bit. And science often helps us see it.

BOGAEV: Just amazing taking with you. I really, really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.

ELLIOT: Oh, thank you. It's been a pleasure. And, I'm really excited about this kind of thinking. So, it's a great chance to talk to people who want to get in on this stuff. There's plenty more to go around.

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WITMORE: Dr. Natalie Elliot is a storyteller, a science writer, and a member of the faculty at St. John’s College. She’s currently working on two books: one on Shakespeare's engagement with early modern science, called Shakespeare and the Theater of the Universe, and a comic novel about woolly mammoths called Megafauna. Her essay, “Shakespeare’s Worlds of Science,” was published in the Winter 2018 edition of The New Atlantis. She was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Our podcast, “If This Be Magic, Let It Be an Art,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the Web Producer, with help from Leonor Fernandez. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Evan Marquart at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California.

As always, if you’re a fan of Shakespeare Unlimited, please leave us a positive review on Apple Podcasts.

Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. You can find more about the Folger at our website, folger.edu. Thanks for listening. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.